By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
Eight days and 192 hours have passed since David Castro lost his home.
He has been living with his father since a tornado slammed the Clovis area March 23 and tore apart his Oak Street home.
“It’s gotten better day by day,” Castro said. “But it’s still hard to believe.”
Castro spent last week clearing away the broken pieces of his home. So did hundreds of others in Clovis and Curry County.
Cleanup is nearly 95 percent complete in areas where the storm ravaged properties, toppled mobile homes, snapped power lines and uprooted trees, according to city and county officials.
Yet, the impact of the storm hovers for people such as Castro, who are homeless, and city and county officials, who have promised not to abandon them.
“We are living through this with you, and we don’t intend to leave you,” Salvation Army Capt. Tammy Ray told displaced residents Friday.
“Our community is going to be whole again. … I believe that,” she said.
Tornadoes that hit Clovis and Logan, a rural community about 80 miles to the north, damaged more than 500 homes and destroyed 75, according to New Mexico officials.
Recovering from the storm could take six months to a year, Clovis Mayor David Lansford said. A month may pass before individuals affected by the disaster know if they will receive federal aid, officials said.
“Where are we now and where are we going is the question we are asking now,” Lansford said.
“The urgency of the situation has been downgraded somewhat, but the seriousness of the situation hasn’t changed,” he said.
American Red Cross officials have also vowed to help individuals impacted by the storm. About half of those impacted are Hispanics and the majority were already poverty stricken, Red Cross spokesperson Mac McNell said.
Unfortunately, Red Cross officials have provided assistance to a fraction of those affected. Their assessments show 150 individuals were harmed in the storm, but just 70 have sought Red Cross assistance.
To extend their reach, Red Cross volunteers and local teachers went door-to-door Saturday to explain available resources.
A storm shelter at Trinity United Church, 1320 West 21st St., was established for tornado victims Thursday. Two people slept at the shelter, officials said.
The post-tornado landscape in Clovis is much calmer than it could be because neighbors are helping neighbors, officials said.
“I feel supported,” said Castro, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his father at a school Friday where officials addressed tornado-related issues.
Castro said strangers flocked to his Oak Street neighborhood last week to haul away debris.
“The streets are cleaned up. The infrastructure is back up and running, and neighbors are helping neighbors,” McNell said.
“City street workers are putting their arms around people because they have to put their house in a Dumpster,” he said.
“The compassion here,” he added, “has been fantastic.”
Red Cross volunteers who came to Clovis from across the nation are scheduled to leave at the end of this week. If work remains to be done, however, so will volunteers, McNell said.
“We will not leave until the job is done and everyone is taken care of,” McNell said.